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Mind Your Own Beeswax

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Beeswax As An Oil Painting Medium


spectrum-beeswax-in-white-spiritYou may have seen it on our shelves, online, or mentioned by a fellow artist - but what exactly do you do with Beeswax as an oil painting medium?

Made from a bleached and purifed form of Beeswax, and mixed to a useable paste with either Linseed Oil or White Spirit - this is a medium apparently favoured by Turner for its ability to create Impasto effects and to  retain brushmarks, leaving the painting with  a subtle sheen. 

 

Here are some points to be aware of though:

Beeswax medium adds body to oil colours and creates a longer drying times.

Works best with Opaque colours.

Only add 10-20% to oil colour and apply with brush or palette knife up to thickness of 2-3mm maximum. Thicker layers will tend to take longer to dry and increase yellowing or slight darkening of dried paint film. 

Over-addition of beeswax paste to oil colours leaves the dried paint film fragile when exposed to high temperatures (beeswax melts at ca. 60°C)

 

Do you fancy having a go at making it yourself? Below is a recepie for two variations of a Beeswax Medium:

 

BASIC BEES WAX MEDIUM

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1 Part - Pure un-bleached yellow bees wax pellets

 

3 Parts - Cold Pressed Raw Linseed Oil

 

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Make enough medium to fill 2 glass jars:

 

 Jar A - Wax Coarse Medium

 

Jar B - Wax Soft Creamy Medium

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Jar A

 

Pour the oil in a pan.

 

Mix in the bees wax pellets.

 

Heat the pan until the wax pellets melt in the oil stirring a little.

 

Remove the pan from the heat and pour the 1/2 of the mixture into your first glass jar. This will be your coarse wax medium.

 

Leave to cool down to room temperature

 

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 Jar B

 

 

 

Now the remaining wax medium in the pan!... Place the pan in a basin containing cold water and keep stirring the mix while it cools down sharply.

 

When the mix in the pan is cool enough (dull opaque) but still somewhat soft, scoop the whole contents into a food processor equipped with a blade.

 

Process the mixture at a high speed. You will notice that the medium changes from a dull appearance to a shiny creamy texture very similar to mayonnaise at which point it should be ready. Turn off the processor and check that there are no lumpy bits left.

 

Pour the creamy bees wax medium in a clean glass jar.

 

Wash the food processor immediately after!!!

 

Although a little "original", this method of processing the bees wax media is actually highly effective. It requires a little patience and some work but it pays off having 2 wax media different in texture, allowing coarse and smooth paint work when mixed with oil colors.

 

Jar A

 

Medium A sets in the jar a little hard, scoop it out with a metal spoon or a stiff palette knife onto the palette, crush it with a fork into a coarse paste and mix with oil colors. This medium is ideal for all abstract techniques, landscapes, painterly styles and impressionistic painting. It brings life and texture and creates random areas of interest across the picture. Dries to a soft sheen, due the presence of linseed oil. Also very good for all knife work. It can be thinned with turpentine.

 

Jar B

 

Medium B is a very smooth creamy paste. Immediately after processing it looks smooth and very shiny, like mayonnaise and after being poured into a jar and let to stand for 24 hours, it has the appearance of butter and feels like butter. Mixed with oil colours, allows really interesting brush work. Brush marks keep their shape, retaining their natural beauty for very expressive painting. Medium B is also the ideal for mixing with Maroger Medium in small quantities (up to max. 10% by volume) for an "Italian School of Painting" approach in still lives, portraits, etc. Dries to a soft sheen. It can be thinned with turpentine.

 

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  1. Neena Currie

    What is the ratio between beeswax and linseed oil, please, to make beeswax medium?

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  2. margaret hurley

    I have clean natural bees wax from my bees which should be easier to use than wax pellets

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  3. bill

    The alternative is to buy LUKAS studio oil paint which they have correctly formulated with three drying agents or the even more expensive LUKAS 1862 oil paint which has less filler and more pigment. I don?t know if any other company that includes bees wax in their formula, if there is I would like to try it. The only downside for Lukas oil paint is that it dries very quickly, which I like but depending on the technique you are applying it might not be suitable.

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